I have a confession to make. I like a bit of rough and tumble. On Facebook that is. I enjoy engaging in a bit argument for argument’s sake in Facebook comment land. You may call it a bad habit, but I like to think of it more as a hobby in which I invest vast amounts of what could otherwise be productive time, engaging with people, debating the hot topics and basically arguing the toss. I do try to confine this rather self-gratifying activity to the comments on posts of large news organisations or public figures and rarely venture into the territory of posts of real friends for obvious reasons. If I do the banter tends to be respectful and to be honest, the expression of my opinion is slightly more restrained.
Since Donald Trump’s election things have gotten a little crazy. Facebook has exploded with expressions of doom-laden angst and teeth gnashing as people everywhere bemoan the end of the world as we know it. If it is coming from friends I am trying my very best to ignore it and scroll on by, I mean just because I don’t agree that the sky is now officially falling, doesn’t mean that other people aren’t entitled to their facts-free serving of ‘love-trumping-hate’ in form of violent protests and accusations of racism, xenophobia and homophobia. Vent away! Let off some of that fearful steam I say.
Well I like to think that’s what I do, but you see on election day I transgressed. I saw a friend’s cry of horror and disbelief on my Facebook feed, and buoyed by a peculiar joy at Hillary Clinton being pipped at the post by the underdog and my own sense of disbelief, I allowed myself to comment. Big mistake. The very idea that a woman could support Donald Trump is enough to make one ‘ill’. Never-mind my protests that I don’t support him necessarily, but just think that Hillary is a corrupt representative of a corrupt political machine, I’m now firmly positioned as one of ‘them’, the tired cliché of the Trump supporter: a racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic sub-human. Expressions of fears for the lives of people of colour and gay people were trotted out. No attempts at amicability were enough. ‘Let’s not get narky at each other,’ I appealed, ‘it’s not worth it.’ But that was to be my last comment, before I realised I could no longer reply. Unfriended you see.
Perhaps I deserved it. Who wants to hear objectionable opinions and contrary ideas out of the mouths of people you call friends? Much better to live in an ideological bubble where you can protect yourself from the slings and arrows of opinions that don’t match yours. Who has time to waste debating the finer points of political issues when you can just skim the surface and form an opinion based on your emotions. Better off getting rid of those nasty, deplorable people who challenge your assumptions from time to time, or you might find your ideas have been confronted and we can’t have that can we?
Pro tip for the bubble dwellers: you can ‘unfollow’ people on Facebook who give you the willies, and they won’t even know. You don’t really have to expunge people you have known for years from your existence by unfriending them altogether. Or perhaps you prefer it that way, after all you’re making the world a better place right? If you can’t see or hear the deplorables, if you don’t even acknowledge that you have ever known them or shared real life experiences together, they will no longer exist.
Maybe there is a lesson in all this. Perhaps we’re all better off in our little bubbles of group-think. If you think your Facebook friends list is looking a little bloated, or your feed features more dummy spitting expressions of leftist frustrations, than you handle, it’s very easy to rectify. Just post the odd comment in support of Donald Trump. It doesn’t have to be anything hard-core, like a quote that disproves that Trump thinks all Mexicans are rapists, or proof that his speeches were edited by organisations like NowThisNews in order to distort the message. Nothing so threatening as pointing out that violent acts are being perpetrated by supporters of both Trump and Hillary, or that Obama has deported 2.5 million illegal immigrants during his tenure at the White House . Nothing so cutting and damaging as that. No, just a mild comment suggesting that maybe Hillary Clinton would not have been a good president may do. Just a hint of disagreement with the anti-Trump rhetoric should be enough to get you into the bucket of deplorables who aren’t worth a Facebook connection. Go on you can do it.
Nicola Wright is a writer with LibertyWorks
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